CHAPTER XIV. HOW TO MAKE USE OF CHRIST, AS TRUTH, FOR COMFORT, WHEN TRUTH IS OPPRESSED AND BORN DOWN.
There is another difficulty, wherein believing souls will stand in need of Christ, as the truth, to help them; and that is, when his work is overturned, his cause borne down, truth condemned, and enemies, in their opposition to his work, prospering in all their wicked attempts. This is a very trying dispensation, as we see it was to the holy penman of Psalm 73.for it made him to stagger, so that his feet were almost gone, and his steps had well nigh slipt; yea he was almost repenting of his being a godly person, saying, ver.13, "Verily I have cleansed my heart in vain, and washed my hands in innocency." It was something like this, which made Jeremiah say, chap. viii.18, "When I would comfort myself against sorrow, my heart is faint in me." The harvest was past, and the summer was ended, and yet they were not saved, ver.20; and they looked for peace, but no good came, and for a time of health, but behold trouble, ver.15—and this was fainting and vexatious. And what made Baruch, Jeremiah's faithful companion in tribulation, say, "Woe is me now! for the Lord hath added grief to my sorrow; I fainted in my sighing, and I find no rest," Jeremiah 45:3, but this, that all things were turning upside down. God was breaking down that, which he had built; and plucking up that which he had planted. Tribulation and suffering for a good cause, is even fainting to some; as the Apostle hinteth, Ephesians 3:13, when he says, wherefore, "I desire that ye faint not at my tribulation for you." And that which evinceth the danger of this dispensation, is the fainting and backsliding of many, in such a time of trial, as sad experience too often cleareth.
Now the believer's stay in this case, must be the Rock of Ages, Jesus the Truth. It is he alone who can keep straight and honest in such a reeling time. So that a sight of Christ as the Truth, in reference to the carrying on of truth in the earth, and advancing his cause and work, will be the only support of a soul shaken by such a piece of trial.
But the question is, how should believers make use of Christ, in such a time, to the end they may be kept from fainting and succumbing in such a storm? To which I answer, that the faith and consideration of those particulars would help to establishment:
1. That Christ, in all this great work of redemption, and in every piece of it, is the Father's servant. So is he frequently called, "his servant," Isaiah 42:1; xlix.3, 5, 6; lii.13; and liii.11. Zechariah 3:8; and therefore this work is a work intrusted to him, and he standeth engaged as a servant, to be faithful to his trust. Moreover add to this, that he hath a commission to perfect that work; and we need not doubt, but he who is the truth will be true to his trust. "Him hath God the Father sealed," John 6:27; and he often tells us himself, that he is "sent of the Father," John 4:34; v.23, 24, 30, 36, 37; vi.38, 39, 40, 44, 57; viii.16, 18; xii.44, 45, 49; vii.16; ix.4; x.36; and xi.42.
2. That while he was upon the earth, he finished that work that was committed to him to finish here, having purchased all that was to be bought by his blood, paying all the price that justice did ask, John 17:4; xix.30. By which price he hath purchased a people to himself, Revelation 5:9. Luke 1:68. So that his work, cause, and interest, is a purchased work bought with his blood.
3. That his resurrection and glorification is an undoubted proof of this, that justice is satisfied, and that the price is fully paid; and also that his exaltation at the Father's right hand is a sure evidence and ground of hope, that he shall at last triumph over all his enemies, and that his work of truth shall prosper. The Father said to him, Psalm 110:1, "Sit thou on my right hand, until I make thine enemies thy footstool." Being highly exalted, he hath got "a name above every name: that at his name every knee should bow, of things in heaven and things in earth, and things under the earth; and that every tongue should confess, that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father," Philippians 2:9, 10, 11.
4. That the Father standeth engaged to make good to him all that was promised, and to give him all that he purchased, Isaiah 53:10, 11, 12. Christ, having now fulfilled his undertaking, by making his soul an offering for sin, and so satisfying justice, which is openly declared by his resurrection, and admission to glory, as the head of his elect, is to expect the accomplishment of what was conditioned unto him. His work, therefore, on the earth must prosper; and the Father hath undertaken to see it prosper. Surely the faith of this would much support a poor soul, staggering at the thoughts of the prosperity of the wicked, and of their evil cause.
5. That Christ himself is now thoroughly furnished and enabled for the carrying on of his work, over the belly of all adversaries, for all power in "Heaven and earth is given to him," Matthew 28:18; "and every knee must bow to him," Philippians 2:10; "all judgment is committed unto him," John 5:22, 27; "angels, powers, and authority are made subject unto him," 1 Pet. iii.22; "yea, all things are under him," Ephesians 1:22. How then can his work miscarry; or who can hinder, that truth should flourish on the earth?
6. That Christ is actually at work, employing this power for the carrying forward of his design, for the glory of the Father, and for his own glory, and for the good of his poor people. The Father worked by him, and he by the Spirit, which is his great Vicegerent, sent from the Father, and from him, and his work is to glorify the Son, and he shall receive of his, and show it unto us, John 16:14.
7. That Christ, upon many accounts, standeth engaged to perfect this work which he hath begun and is about. His honour is engaged to go through, seeing now he is fully furnished for it, and hath all the creation at his command. He must then perfect his work, as to the application, as well as he did perfect it as to the purchase. His love to his Father's and his own glory, and to his own people's good and salvation, may assure us, that he will not leave the work unperfected; and his power and furniture may give us full security, that no stop which his work meeteth with shall be able to hinder it.
8. That hence it is clear and manifest, that his wheel is in the midst of the wheels of men, and that therefore he is ordering all their motions and reelings to the best. His wheel keepeth an even pace, and moveth equally and equitably in the midst of men's contrary motions.
9. And that, therefore, all the eccentric and irregular motions of devils and wicked men being in his hand, and ordered by him, cannot hinder, but further his end; so that even enemies, while opposing and seeking to destroy the cause and interest of Christ, that his name and truth should no more be mentioned, are promoving his work. His wheel is the great wheel that ordereth all the lesser and subordinate wheels, whatever contrary motions they may have the one to the other, and all or many of them may seem to have to this great wheel; so that, do they what they will, the work of our Lord goeth on. Their opposition is setting his work forward, though they intend the contrary; however their faces look, they row to the port he would be at. This is an undoubted truth, and confirmed in all ages, and yet is not firmly believed; and a truth it is, which, if believed, would do much to settle our staggering souls in a stormy day.
10. That at last he shall come "to be glorified in his saints," 2 Thessalonians 1:10; "when he shall be revealed from heaven with all his mighty angels," verse 7. Then shall it be seen whose counsel shall stand, his or men's; and whose work shall prosper, his or Satan's.
Yet, let me add a few words, for caution and direction here.
1. The consideration of these things mentioned should not make us slacken our diligence in prayer and other duties; and when they are aright considered, they will rather prove a spur and a goad in our side to set us forward, than a bridle to hold us back.
2. We would not think that Christ's work and interest is going backward always, when it seemeth so to us. Even when he is casting down what he hath built up, and plucking up what he hath planted, his work is prospering, for all that is in order to the laying of a better foundation, and to the carrying on of a more glorious work, when he shall lay all the stones with fair colours, and the foundations with sapphires, and make the windows of crystal, &c. Isaiah 54:11,12.
3. Though his work be always going on, and his truth prospering, yet we would not think that it will always prosper alike in our apprehensions; many times we judge by rules of our own making, and not by the rule of truth, and hence it is that we mistake oftentimes. We walk little by faith, and too much by sense; and hence we judge too much by sense, and so pass a wrong judgment, to his dishonour, and the saddening of our own hearts.
4. Nor would we think that his truth and interest is ruined and gone, because it is sore oppressed in this or that particular place of the world; as if his work were not of an universal extent, and in all the churches. If his truth thrive and prosper in some other place of the world, shall we not say, that his kingdom is coming? Or shall we limit all his work and interest to one small part of the world?
5. We would not think the worse of his work because it is carried on with so many stops, and doth meet with so many impediments in its way. We are not acquainted with the depths of his infinite wisdom and counsel; and so we see not what noble ends he hath before him, in suffering those impediments to lie in the way of his chariot. We think he should ride so triumphantly all along, that none should once dare to cast the least block in his way. But we judge carnally, as unacquainted with the many noble and glorious designs which he hath in ordering matters. As himself was for a stone of stumbling and a rock of offence, so will he have the way of the carrying on of his work prove, in his holy and spotless justice, a stumbling-stone to many that shall stumble thereat, and fall, and never rise any more.
6. We should beware to think that Christ hath forgotten his work, because he seemeth to take no notice of our prayers, which we are putting up now and then for his work. He may be doing that which we are desiring in the general, and yet not let us know that he is answering our prayers; and that for wise and holy ends, to keep us humble and diligent. He may seem to disregard our suits, and yet be carrying on his work, and granting us our desires upon the matter.
7. Hence we should beware of desponding, and growing heartless and faint, when we see few owning truth, or standing upon Christ's side; for he needeth not man's help to carry on this work, though he sometimes thinketh good to condescend so far as to honour some to be instrumental in setting of it forward, who yet have nothing but as he giveth; let us not then think, that his work cannot prosper because great ones and mean ones oppose it, and such as should stand for it and own it, are few and fainting, without strength, courage, or zeal.